Sydney, Australia High hopes gave way to harsh reality on the last day of the Sydney Games.
The U.S. boxing team, which arrived in Sydney hoping to reverse its recent Olympic fortunes, wound up without a single gold medal. And for the first time since 1968, the American freestyle wrestlers failed to win a gold.
U.S. boxer Ricardo Juarez lost Sunday (Saturday night EDT) to 125-pounder Bekzat Sattarkhanov of Kazakstan, 22-14, giving him a silver medal and leaving the American team with one last shot at winning its only gold in Australia.
Ricardo Williams wasn't up to the task. He was defeated 27-20 by Mahamadkadyz Abdullaev of Uzbekistan in his gold medal bout at 139 pounds.
In each of the past two Olympics, U.S. boxers had won just a single gold medal. In Australia, they failed to reach even that modest total.
With the final day under way, the Americans were poised to collect the most medals, leading the pack with 91 (38 gold, 23 silver, 30 bronze). Running second was Russia with 78 (28-24-26), followed by China's 59 (28-16-15).
Wrestling: Disaster struck quickly with four straight losses Sunday (Saturday night EDT), dashing any hopes of a U.S. gold.
Ex-Iowa wrestlers Terry Brands and Lincoln McIlravy lost close semifinal matches, leaving each with a shot at the bronze. Kerry McCoy and Charles Burton lost tight quarterfinal matches and were shut out of the medals.
On Saturday, U.S. wrestlers Brandon Slay and Sammie Henson had won silver after tough defeats in the finals.
Greco-Roman gold medalist Rulon Gardner, who ended the 13-year undefeated streak of Russian super heavyweight Alexander Karelin, will carry the U.S. flag during the Olympic closing ceremony Sunday.
Drugs: The last day of the Sydney Olympics started with an all-too-familiar refrain: three Olympians, one a bronze medalist, busted for steroids.
Armenian lifter Ashot Danielyan was stripped of his medal after a positive test for the steroid nandrolone, becoming the fourth weightlifter to test positive in the Summer Games.
Greco-Roman wrestler Fritz Aanes of Norway also tested positive for nandrolone after losing a bronze-medal match Wednesday, IOC medical commission chairman Prince Alexander de Merode said Sunday (Saturday night EDT).
De Merode also formally announced that Russian 400-meter runner Svetlana Pospelova tested positive the steroid stanozolol in an out-of-competition test at the games.
Eight athletes tested positive in Sydney since the games began Sept. 16, with more than 50 others caught in pre-games tests around the world. And that figure doesn't include allegations that U.S. officials ignored positive tests for up to 15 of its athletes, or the charge that Marion Jones' husband, C.J. Hunter, tested positive for nandrolone.
The eight drug positives are quadruple the two recorded at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and the most at a Summer Games since 10 in Seoul in 1988.
Water polo: A 10-8 loss to Italy left the U.S. squad with a sixth-place finish in Sydney one spot up from its finish in 1996, but still a disappointment. The United States finished with a record of 2-5-1 in the competition.
Women's basketball: Talk about winning on the road.
The U.S. hoopsters faced host Australia before a rabid crowd eager to see the gold medal come home and sent the locals home disappointed. The Americans, winners of the Atlanta Games, took their second straight gold with a 76-54 thrashing of Australia.
"We played hard, we played great," U.S. center Lisa Leslie said. "We knew we could do it, but it's still an amazing feeling to do it on someone else's homecourt."
The Americans won with rebounding and defense, holding Australia to 31 percent shooting while winning the battle of the boards 48-27. Leslie and Natalie Williams led the Americans with 15 points each, while Yolanda Griffith added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The U.S. women led by 13 at halftime, and quickly answered Australia's one second-half run to put the game away. The U.S. team has now won the last two Olympics and the 1998 world championships.
Australia's silver medal marked the nation's highest finish ever in women's basketball.